FISHERS, Ind. -- They were each headed to a destination cut short--one on a school bus, the other on a motorcycle.
Their story is part of a stunning connection that's allowing a Fishers police officer to heal from a crash that almost took his life.
Binh Dennis, 48, is getting himself to the edge of his bed, unassisted.
The payoff for hard work is measured in a much different way than it was before Oct. 6, 2018. That’s the day the 15-year Fishers police veteran and former SWAT team member lost control of his motorcycle on a scenic drive with his wife in Nashville, Indiana.
"Three broken ribs, two collapsed lungs, three broken vertebrae, fractured pelvis, dislocated knees and blood loss,” Dennis said, recalling his numerous injuries.
The worst of it: traumatic injuries to his brain.
On the medical helicopter flight to the hospital, he coded.
His wife, Mary, fortunately suffered less severe injuries. Part of Binh’s skull had to be removed temporarily while his brain heals. As for his legs and body movement, that is still a work in progress.
“I go to sleep and when I wake up, I’m still the person I was when I went to sleep, and not the person I remember.” Dennis said.
In the four months since the crash, there have been surgeries and rehab. And darkness.
“Mentally, it’s tough at times,” Dennis said. “If you let it get to you, it can pull you into a hole. If you allow it, only one thing can happen: it’s going keep you there.”
Dennis has been getting support from his family. But there’s one person who knows better than anyone else what he’s going through. And he walks these hallways every day.
The body has grown, the face has aged, but it might look familiar. This is Edward Tindall, Binh’s nephew. Seven years ago, this now 14-year-old suffered his own near-death accident on the bus to Lighthouse Charter Academy.
Edward was thrown from the bus, trapped in the wheel well. His leg was amputated from the knee down.
“Losing a limb is life-changing,” Dennis said. “What he (Edward) had to go through at the time seemed senseless. Who thinks when you put your kid on a school bus that this would happen?”
Edward is now an eighth grader at Belzer Middle School in Lawrence Township. He's been on the football team and played the trumpet in band. He’s come a long way from the little boy relearning how to walk.
“When I first woke up from my coma, I didn’t have the prosthetic leg yet, so I was moving around in a wheelchair and my legs were getting weak,” Tindall said. “When I got my leg, I used it and I’m here now, I’m walking and people can barely tell.”
“He’s a creative student, very creative. He’s interested in music, always helpful to his classmates. And he’s funny,” said Ryan Showalter, Edward’s social studies teacher.
We followed Edward's journey of recovery. Little did we – or anyone know that the young man would encounter a fellow traveler along the path: his own uncle.
“He (Uncle Binh) said I was like his motivation to basically get up in the morning and do what he does,” Tindall said.
“Anyone can tell you, ‘That’s normal, you’ll get through it and you’ll be fine,’” Dennis said. “But for someone who’s experienced something similar to tell you…no pun intended...has ‘walked in your shoes’ to tell you something, you hold that with more weight than someone who could not imagine what you’re going through.”
There between the two is Edward’s mom and Binh’s sister, Nikki Dennis – now finding herself challenged again by the will of the human spirit.
“It was an ‘Oh, so familiar’ kind of call that I honestly never thought I’d get again,” Nikki said. “We let our lives get away so frequently, but it was kind of like a wake up call to say, ‘Hey, you’ve got to appreciate the people that love you and the people you love and make sure you take time to be with them.’”
Nikki remembers how her brother held Edward in awe, first as a firefighter, then as a police officer.
“Binh has inspired Edward from a distance, up close his whole life before he even knew it,” Nikki said. “And now I just think it’s a chance to inspire one another to keep each other going.”
Dennis remains steadfast in his faith and believes he will walk again one day. If that is not his future, his commitment to God, family and community will remain.
"Yes, I’m a different person,” Dennis said. “The way I like to describe it is, a new path has been chosen for me and I have to continue down that path.”
“That’s putting you on the path where you need to go, whether you knew you were going that way or not, this is where we’re going," Nikki added.
"Obviously in my mind He has a purpose for me, what that purpose is, I don’t know and I don’t need to know – all I’ve got to do is follow, I don’t need to ask why, I just follow.” Dennis said.
“Wherever we go,” Edward said, “it’s going be good.”
Fundraising for Dennis has been organized by the Fraternal Order of Police 199 and the Central Indiana Police Foundation. If you would like to donate, click here.